Growing up by studying abroad Growing up by studying abroad

Growing up by studying abroad

Intercultura, to encourage intercultural exchanges and experiences  

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Growing up and becoming adults is a major challenge for boys and girls. At a certain point in their life and training, many young people want to face such a challenge by comparing different lifestyles and ideas, learning about new cultures and facing all aspects of diversity: ethnic, linguistic, cultural and much more.

Organisations such as Intercultura, which promote and organise intercultural exchanges and experiences for high school students, help young people better understand the world they live in and introduce them to other cultures.

Intercultura is a non-profit organisation, run by thousands of volunteers, who have chosen to work in the educational and academic field to raise awareness of its international dimension. Every year, it sends approximately 1,800 high school students to live and study abroad and welcomes to Italy about a thousand young people from all countries, allowing them to spend a period of their life with Italian families and at Italian schools.

This year, once again Intercultura has published a new notice of competition for high school students, who are invited to participate in programmes abroad during the academic year 2015-16, with the offer of about a thousand scholarships.

Thanks to student mobility programmes, schools encourage cultural dialogue and exchange, thus helping to promote the “knowledge society” and the achievement of the strategic goals established in March 2000 by the European Council in Lisbon.

A period of study abroad of one year or a few months is a valuable learning experience, which gives students insight into the culture of another country.

For young people it is a unique experience, putting cognitive, affective and relational resources to the test, which gives new meaning to values, identity, behaviour and learning.

Being introduced to new cultures, learning a new language and living away from their own human and social environment is not easy. It requires a commitment that goes far beyond what is required for a year of normal study in their own country: the key element of such an experience is the development of intercultural skills.

As also highlighted by research at the 2013 edition of “Generazione I…n Europa” of the National Observatory on the internationalization of schools and student mobility, promoted by the Fondazione Intercultura and Fondazione Telecom Italia, over the years an increasing number of Italian students have decided to follow this path and spend a few months or an entire academic year abroad in Europe or other parts of the world, attending various types of school with an educational content very different to that of Italian schools.

At the same time, the number of foreign students following a course of study at Italian schools has also increased.

What difficulties might students face on these exchanges?

The main issues that emerge are related to:

- the recognition of studies carried out abroad for Italian students;

- the equivalence of the subjects studied for Italian students;

- admission to the following academic year for Italian students;

- admission to classes for foreign students

Organisations such as Intercultura are involved in supporting students, families and schools during these exchanges in order to avoid any such difficulties.

A double advantage for schools and students

As already mentioned, students that go abroad to study have the opportunity to interact and learn about a new culture while schools that host foreign students also have the opportunity to transform such an experience into an advantage. Schools can expand and internationalize their own educational programme, encourage interest in other cultures different to our own, make comparisons with the outside world, foster an interest in languages, promote global education, be flexible in their internal educational and organisational approach, and make students aware of diversity.

Currently, over 900 schools participate in the Intercultura educational project every year. Intercultura supports schools that decide to host foreign students, thanks to the help of volunteers, and organises training seminars for school principals and teachers to prepare and train them in the most effective manner.

Telecom Italia and Intercultura

With its long-standing commitment to spreading the sharing and dissemination of different cultures, every year Telecom Italia establishes a competition for the children of its employees, who are invited to participate in cultural projects organised by Intercultura.

For the academic year 2014-2015, 20 scholarships lasting one year and 100 scholarships lasting 4-6 weeks have been awarded. China, Japan, the U.S., Honduras, Canada, Brazil, Spain, Iceland, Finland and many other countries will host high school students during the next academic year and next summer.